Mark the New Year with late summer harvest menu


A recent trip to Italy made me aware of the wonderful possibilities of growing your own lush, flavorful garden-fresh food. The villa where we stayed was entirely self-sufficient, with magnificent varieties of produce, eggs gathered from the hen house and the proprietors even making their own wine and olive oil.

 
If you have a garden, you know the pleasure of eating the freshest of salad greens, tomatoes, vegetables and fruits. And since the weather is still warm as Rosh Hashanah arrives at sundown on Friday, Sept. 22, take advantage of the healthy garden bounties and prepare a light menu featuring the late summer harvest of fresh vegetables and fruits to celebrate the New Year.

 
If you’re not a gardener, visit some of the local open-air farmers’ markets. The Wednesday morning Santa Monica farmers market is one of the largest, and there is an organic Saturday market as well, where the selection and variety is very impressive.

 
After a special round challah and apple slices dipped in honey, start the dinner with a simple salad of avocado and tomato slices served on a bed of pungently flavored arugula and dressed with a tangy orange vinaigrette. Hopefully, you will be lucky enough to make it with full-flavored tomatoes from your garden; nothing compares with vine-ripened tomatoes. If they are not available, your local farmers’ market will have a selection of the tasty heirloom tomatoes.

 
Arugula is not only trendy and delicious, but very easy to grow, and seeds are available at most nurseries.

 
Next, serve a chilled beet borscht, my version of gazpacho, and pass around bowls of chopped cucumbers, green and yellow bell peppers, and chives, for a colorful do-it-yourself garnish.

 
The main course is a whole roast chicken that has been butterflied and baked on bed of fresh vegetables — a combination of garlic, onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, squash and potatoes, and garnished with fresh herbs from your garden. With this dish we will drink a special toast for a peaceful year with a glass of young, fruity chardonnay.
 
For dessert, late summer pl
ums, arranged in colorful circles on a light pastry dough make a delicious eye-appealing tart. Serve a sweet late harvest wine or hot tea with lemon, and let the children choose their favorite fruit juice.

 
Cold Puree of Beet Borscht
4 medium-size beets, unpeeled
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Diced cucumbers
Diced green and yellow red peppers

 
Scrub the outside of the beets using cold water, place in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until a fork inserted in the beet is tender, about one hour. Cool. Remove the beets, but reserve the liquid. Peel the skin, which should come off easily, and discard.

 
Dice the beets and return to the liquid. Place half of the diced beets and liquid in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl and repeat the process with the remaining beets and liquid. Add lemon juice, sugar and salt to taste and mix well. To serve, ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with cucumbers and peppers.

 
Makes eight to 10 servings.

 
Avocado, Tomato and Arugula Salad

 
Usually avocados are served mashed or chopped. For this dish, simply slice the avocados and tomatoes, which enables them to harmonize with the pungent-flavored arugula.

 
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large tomatoes, sliced
3 cups loosely packed arugula, coarse stems discarded
Vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional

 
Cut each avocado into nine to 12 lengthwise slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside. Slice tomatoes and set aside.

 
Wash arugula and dry. Slice and mound arugula on chilled plates, fan the avocado slices around the mounds and arrange the sliced tomatoes in the center.

 
Spoon enough vinaigrette over each salad to coat leaves, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired. Serve immediately.

 
Makes six to eight servings.

 
Vinaigrette Dressing
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup walnut oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper

 
Place mustard, vinegar, lemon juice in a processor or blender. Add oil in thin stream and blend until slightly thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 
Butterflied Roast Chicken With Medley of Vegetables
1 (4-pound) or 2 (2-pound) whole chickens
1 onion, sliced and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium potato, diced and steamed
2 tablespoons minced parsley
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

 
Marinade
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme and rosemary, crushed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 cups dry white wine

 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Split the chicken along the entire length of the back, removing backbone from tail to neck. Open it out, skin side up. With a mallet or the heel of your hand, flatten the chicken, fracturing the breastbone and ribcage, so it lays flat. Arrange vegetables on a foil-lined large roasting pan, and place the chicken on top, skin-side up.

 
Mix garlic and rosemary together. Working with your fingertips, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken, beginning at the neck end, being careful not to tear the skin. Place sliced garlic and rosemary under the skin, including the drumsticks and thighs. Mix together the olive oil and herbs and rub it on the top of the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

 
Pour the marinade over the vegetables and chicken and bake for l0 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour longer, depending on the size of the chicken. Baste every 20 minutes. If chicken browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. If the marinade cooks away too quickly, add more. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes, allowing the chicken to brown.

Celebrate with Cheesecake


On the first night of Chanukah, the family always gets together at our home for a special evening. We enjoy lighting the Chanukah candles, eating traditional foods and exchanging gifts.

Dessert is always a highlight of the evening, and this year for Chanukah, I am going to surprise everybody with a special cheesecake. I discovered the recipe on a recent trip to the wine country when we visited the Redwood Hill Goat Farm near Sonoma. After touring the goat farm, we attended a cooking class where the focus was cooking with goat cheese.

The dessert that was prepared for the class was a cheesecake using goat cheese in place of the usual cream cheese. Not overly sweet, the texture was cake-like, rather than the traditional creamy version I usually make. Although the original recipe did not have a crust, I chose to create one using finely ground granola.

Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with an orange juice syrup. It is the perfect dessert for a dairy dinner, great as a breakfast treat, or to serve friends that visit during the eight days of Chanukah.

Goat Cheese Cake with Granola Crumb Crust

  • 3/4 pound (soft) goat cheese (room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Orange Juice Syrup

Prepare the Granola Crumble Crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the goat cheese with 3/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, incorporating each one completely before adding the next.

Turn the mixer to low and beat in the flour.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until firm. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. (Do not underbake.) Cool for 15 minutes on a rack.

Remove cake from the pan and cool completely. Serves 8 to 10.

Granola Crumb Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups granola
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the granola and sugar in a food processor and blend until fine crumbs. Add butter and blend until mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch spring form mold.

Bake for about six minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool before filling.

Orange Juice Syrup

  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

In a saucepan, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until thick. Cool.

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